Teacher as Model & Participator
The art teacher is in a unique position; she personifies the value of art and creativity in everyday life (and not only in the art classroom), and actively participates in art activities. The art teacher uses creativity as a basis for modelling acceptance and joy in the process of creativity and expression. Children feel valued and respected when educators show a genuine interest in their creative processing, without becoming overbearing or taking over completely. Children take to teachers that get down on their level to engage with them – communication is vital in participation!
Teachers must portray a confidence in their own ability regardless of how well they’re able to draw or paint. Teachers need to continually model a positive attitude to learners when assessing their own art or attempting new art mediums. The art teacher also facilitates and initiates new learning experiences by modelling behaviours and skills that the learners are able to observe and follow without direct instruction.
Participating in art activities will enable children to relax, enjoy themselves and not take the activity too seriously. Constant encouragement, guidance and assistance (where appropriate) are usually welcomed, and if not, the teachers must respect the child’s decision and give them space to create.
Teacher as Creative Individual & Art Specialist
It is necessary for teachers to model creative thinking, self-expression and resourcefulness for their students. Fostering creativity in children from an early age establishes a pattern for out-of-the-box thinking and innovative problem solving in later life.
Creative teachers are responsible for creating environments that allow their learners to freely express themselves through a variety of mediums and activities. Creativity should not be confined to certain art activities, times or days; rather it should extend across the entire program each and every day. Art teachers must use their creativity to take advantage of learning opportunities that present themselves unexpectedly. Teachers that confidently express their own creativity model acceptance of diversity and a positive self-image for their learners.
Teachers need to have an in-depth knowledge of artistic elements, processes and mediums if they wish to provide developmentally appropriate art activities. These activities should encourage creativity as well as knowledge and skill acquisition. Teachers need to build a firm foundational knowledge of art that extends to all learning experiences. Principles such as establishing new and unconventional problem-solving approaches to challenges, valuing everyone’s contributions, perseverance and hard work in achieving success and celebration of self-expression are but a few that learners may encounter in art but apply in life.
Teacher as Observer
The teacher takes on the role of observer to better connect with what the child artist wishes to express or communicate through their art. Through art children may convey their inner-most thoughts, feelings, responses to certain situations they’ve experienced and the importance they place on certain objects. Observation enables teachers to engage with the child, guide learning and gain valuable insight into the child’s world and their interpretation of it. It also allows the teachers to gather their thoughts/assessments on a child over a longer period of time to reduce the risk of rash, invalid conclusions.
Children use art as a means of self-expression and to make sense of their environment. It also facilitates discovery through active participation with different artistic mediums, elements and principles in a “safe”, unpressured environment. Observation is a critical tool for reliable assessment and appropriate discussions on the art work. The teacher should consider the reasons behind creating the artwork, the media used and use of artistic elements when observing an artwork.
Teacher as Responder
It’s crucial that teachers master using appropriate verbal and non-verbal art dialogue when responding to a child’s art. This allows them to give sound feedback on a child’s art that addresses the artistic elements and principles, mediums, individual’s creative expression and the amount of effort the child puts in.
Art teachers must avoid overly complimentary, judgmental or valuing comments (such as “Very beautiful!”, “Very good!” or “I love it so much!”) as these can instil a desire to please the teacher that may detrimentally affect a child’s creativity and reason for creating. These comments also run the risk of sounding insincere and over-used. Children receiving this kind of response may doubt the authenticity of the comment and lose heart. Similarly, direct questions about what the artwork is may cause the child artist to withdraw because they’re embarrassed that it isn’t easily recognisable or they may not even know themselves. Young children often create for the sake of creating, with no real end product in mind. The teacher needs to keep this in mind when communicating with the artist and should direct comments about the artwork to obvious art elements and design principles used.
Response to art activities should encourage the artist, describe the artistic elements present in the artwork and discuss the process of creating in an open-ended manner that encourages thinking and response.
This approach models correct art vocabulary and dialogue, develops as appreciation and recognition of artist elements in other artists’ work and lets each child know their artwork is valuable and accepted.
Teacher as Troubleshooter
Guidance and encouragement are necessary when children are uncertain of their own ability, capability, direction or ideas. Sometimes children may face artistic challenges that require a teacher’s gentle leading. For instance, children may struggle with knowing what to create and how to create it. Some children may resist moving onto new activities that expand their learning experience and skill mastery. Still others may believe they’re incapable of creating acceptable art and meeting their own standards or those of peers/adults due to poor self esteem, previous criticism, fear of failure or simply a preference for reading/blocking building etc over art.
There is a time and place for teachers to step in and direct a child’s learning, by way of leading and open-ended questions that help the child to think creatively, as well as to continual support and positive encourage.
Englebright Fox J & Schirrmacher R, Art & Creative Development for Children, Sensory Experiences (2015:293-302)